Critics’ Picks

Carson Buka, Serious Talk, 2022, barkcloth collage and acrylic on canvas, 55 1/8 x 39 3/8 x 2".

Carson Buka, Serious Talk, 2022, barkcloth collage and acrylic on canvas, 55 1/8 x 39 3/8 x 2".

Masaka

Carson Buka

Amasaka Gallery
Plot 12 Birch Avenue
February 27–March 27, 2023

In recent portraiture from Uganda, seldom do the subjects not meet the gaze of the viewer. Instead, they appear deliberately posed, overtly conscious of their audience and how they will be viewed. Carson Buka breaks from this trend. In most of his portraits, the artist captures his sitters deeply lost in private interaction; some are even clearly combative and yet still unbothered by the possibility of being watched.

For “Enkolangala,” the fourth exhibition by Amasaka Gallery, one of the rare public contemporary art venues outside the capital city Kampala, Buka invites us to reflect on the interactions among the individual, social mores, and human nature. Nodding to Masaka’s role as a hub for the production of bark cloth, the artist paints with and over the material, combining the ancient tawny brown Buganda fabric with everyday white canvas. He further draws out this contrast through the Pop-accented, near-comic depiction of figures in primary hues.

Buka’s paintings subtly address the delicate tussle for control in the relationship between an art object and its viewers, paying particular attention to the pernicious influence of the generalized representation of identity and difference produced and promoted by dominant markets. Under this logic, the shared values among individuals or objects rooted in multicultural and multilingual communities are relinquished to a single linear narrative of a “people.” Buka’s portraits call out that fantasy, refusing to play by its rules. Rather than cater to viewers, the paintings force them into the role of voyeurs, eavesdropping on the intimacies of others.